A new type of window glass – in effect a transparent solar panel – is the objective of joint research being done by the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa and Ghent University in Belgium.
A working model has been created that proves the viability of the process, which now needs to be refined, made more efficient, and brought to the market. It is hoped to achieve this within a decade.
This new product will have the capacity to revolutionize the generation of power cheaply from the sun to power homes, factories, and cities in a new clean way.
Academics from the University of the Free State in South Africa, Professor Hendrik Swart and Lucas Erasmus, are doing joint research with Ghent University in Belgium to find solutions for energy production.
Professor Swart explains the main objective of the research: “The idea is to develop glass that is transparent to visible light, just like the glass you find in the windows of buildings, motor vehicles and mobile electronic devices. However, by incorporating the right phosphor materials inside the glass, the light from the sun that is invisible to the human eye (ultraviolet and infrared light) can be collected, converted and concentrated to the sides of the glass panel where solar panels can be mounted.
“This invisible light can then be used to generate electricity to power buildings, vehicles and electronic devices. The goal is therefore to create a type of transparent solar panel.”
Swart says this technology can be implemented in the building environment to meet the energy demands of the people inside the buildings. “The technology is also good news for the 4.7 billion cell phone users in the world, as it can be implemented in the screens of cell phones, where the sun or the ambient light of a room can be used to power the device without affecting its appearance,” he says.
Another possible application is in electric cars, where the windows can be used to help power the vehicle.
Erasmus adds: “We are also looking at implementing this idea into hard, durable plastics that can act as a replacement for zinc roofs. This will allow visible diffused light to enter housing and the invisible light can then be used to generate electricity. The device also concentrates the light from a large area to the small area on the sides where the solar panels are placed; therefore, reducing the number of solar panels needed and in return, reducing the cost.”
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